A former senior Defense Ministry official arrested recently on suspicion of disclosing a secret government order that paved the way for the Armenian military’s involvement in the suppression of the 2008 opposition protests in Yerevan has refused the statements made by his two lawyers in an RFE/RL interview last week and refused to further avail himself of their services.
Hovik Arsenian, who now represents Armen Sargsian’s legal interests, told RFE/RL on Monday that the statements made by Tigran Atanesian and Artur Grigorian and the opinions expressed by them “had never been agreed with my client.”
Sargsian, the former head of the ministry’s construction department, was arrested in late December about two weeks after the pro-opposition daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” published a photocopy of the order signed on February 23, 2008 by then Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian. The written directive was issued immediately after the outgoing President Robert Kocharian ordered Armenia’s top security and military officials to thwart what he called attempts by his predecessor and opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian to “seize power by illegal means.” He referred to non-stop demonstrations staged by Ter-Petrosian following the hotly disputed February 19 presidential election.
Colonel Seyran Shahsuvarian, the Defense Ministry spokesman, told RFE/RL late last week that Sargsian was charged with disclosing “state secrets.” He confirmed that the accusation stemmed from the revelation of the controversial order. Shahvuvarian declined to give further details, saying that the investigation is being conducted by the National Security Service (NSS).
In an interview with RFE/RL late last week, Atanesian and Grigorian, still speaking as Sargsian’s lawyers, said that their client had nothing to do with what they described as a “fabricated” charge. “The case will become a matter of a judicial inquest and he [Armen Sargsian] will give detailed testimony as to who was interested in opening this criminal case and taking him into custody. He has authorized us to give concrete names. One of them is Seyran Ohanian and the other, the current chief of the General Staff, [Yuri] Khachaturov.”
“I met with my client today and he was very angry, because both Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and Chief of the General Staff Yuri Khachaturov are his comrades-in-arms, and he has never had grounds, and could not have, to have doubts about them on any issue or about their dedication. In particular, he stated that for about 13 years he worked in the Defense Ministry and his work was only aimed at strengthening our army,” Sargsian’s new lawyer Arsenian told RFE/RL this week, quoting his client.
Arsenian said no such “discrediting or libelous subject” as raised by Sargsian’s former lawyers was discussed during his meeting with the client.
“It is very unclear for me why statements or opinions of this kind were made and expressed,” he said.